Books - 2012

Books I Have Read In 2012

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Technically I read this half in 2011 and half in 2012 but I’m counting it here anyway. I found it slow going at first, but towards the end started enjoying it a lot more. The ending was a shade guessable but that doesn’t detract from an evocatively written depiction of the character of Dorian Gray and period London. This was the first book I have read on my new Kindle, which I’ve been thoroughly impressed with so far.

God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

A friend recommended this book to me a while ago but I didn’t buy it at the time as it looked like it would be just another anti-religious book similar to Dawkins’ The God Delusion, which I hadn’t especially enjoyed reading. As luck would have it, however, I saw it on sale for 99p in Amazon’s recent Kindle sale, so decided to give it a go. And I’m very pleased I did. I found it a well written and well-researched book. It is anti-religion, as you’d expect from the title but makes its case very clearly and although it criticises religion (all of the main ones) very harshly it didn’t do it with the tone of ridicule that I felt I detected in Dawkins’ book. I also felt that this book contained much more information than presented by Dawkins.

120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade

Deeply unpleasant read and a slog to finish. I wish I hadn’t bothered. It started bad and got worse. The book probably does have a message but you’d be better off reading a few amazon reviews to find it, rather than read the book itself.

Genus by Jonathan Trigell

Not sure what I made of this book. I enjoyed reading it and wanted to find out more, but the big events in the book seemed to remain largely unexplained. I also thought the writing style seemed to veer disjointedly for no apparent reason. For example, I loved the bullfight set-piece but it seemed out of place in the story. The book does paint a convincing vision of a near-future London but the rioting and September 11th parallels seemed very heavy handed.

Computer Networking: Principles, Protocols and Practice by Olivier Bonaventure

This is a free university textbook from www.saylor.org. As such, it isn’t light reading, but it was exactly what I was looking for to teach myself about computer networking - an optional course I missed out on whilst at university. It contains huge amounts of detail about pretty much everything you’ll ever need to know about how information makes it from your computer to the other side of the planet and back.

Sloppy Seconds: The Tucker Max Leftovers by Tucker Max

Another book worth about what I paid for it. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Actually this one’s OK, but is definitely correctly named. I’ve enjoyed the stories on Tucker’s website as a kind of guilty pleasure. This book contains duplicates of some of them, plus more that presumably didn’t even make the cut as website give-aways.

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson

I got a lot out of this book. It really helped me to get my head around some basic photography concepts and how to implement them. It contains lots of great photos, too.

A Song of Ice and Fire (1) - A Game of Thrones: Book 1 of a Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

It took me a while to finish this 800+ page mammoth book and took me a little while to get into but by the end I was thoroughly enjoying it. I found the supernatural element strange as, although it was present in the book it featured so minimally it was hard to tell whether or not it was even meant to be there, or not. However, I enjoyed the political intrigue and the occasional grizzly (and very original) death!

Buttonless: Incredible iPhone and iPad Games and the Stories Behind Them by Ryan Rigney

A look behind the scenes at the development of some well known iPhone and iPad games. An interesting read, although the impression I got of the App Store as being a bit of a jungle was somewhat disheartening. Quite a few of the featured apps failed to break even and success seemed to often be related to whether or not Apple had chosen to feature the app on their store front page.

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment by Martin Seligman

An interesting book, but I found it slow going. And that’s with skipping most of the surveys and the appendices/notes which make up a good third of the book. Summary: Playing to your strengths will make you happy.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

A thoroughly inventive and original sci-fi/adventure novel based on 80’s geek culture. So, naturally, I loved it! I was delighted to spot that the author has even created a real-life competition based on the book. Unfortunately it is only open to US residents and the starting clue to the competition is only in print copies of the book whereas I read it on my Kindle. Given how the competition in the story is revealed and the fact the clue isn’t in electronic copies, I’m pretty sure I have worked out how the author has hidden it. Might have to pop into a bookshop to check my theory. ;-)

Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen

I started off thinking I’d never get on with this book’s florid writing and overly-dramatic stylings but once I’d got over the first chapter found myself throughly enjoying this historical romp through the credit card fraud / hacker underground. It gives an interesting behind the scenes look at how “carding” works (or used to work?) and some of the players involved.

Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein

An enjoyable and informative read but I didn’t feel it lived up to the promise on the back of the book. The life-or-death prologue which ought to have set the scene for a riveting story disappeared until a couple of chapters before the end.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

Actually just a bog standard women’s romance novel. Follows the template to a T. Don’t know what all the fuss is about. A dumb portrayal of BDSM, too, most likely thoroughly offensive to practitioners of those “dark arts”, cast as they are in the book as damaged individuals.

Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim

Tall tales of Iceberg Slim’s journey to pimp mastery. I loved the atmosphere and colourful slang, although I suspect Iceberg glammed his behaviour up a little for this autobiography.

The Book Of The New Sun: Volume 2: Sword and Citadel: Sword and Citadel Vol 2 (Fantasy Masterworks) by Gene Wolfe

Having thoroughly enjoyed Volume One of this epic work I was a little disappointed by the second volume. Still a fun read but it just seemed to be lacking something compared to the epic imaginative scope of the first novel. I think perhaps in trying to draw all of the threads to a conclusion it became a little too deus ex machina.

Zero History by William Gibson

Wasn’t sure what to make of this one - beautifully and stylishly written, as always, by Gibson but unfortunately throughout the book it felt like nothing was really happening.

Harrington on Online Cash Games; 6-Max No-Limit Hold ‘em by Dan Harrington

I got a lot out of reading this book. I preferred it to Harrington’s other books on cash games of poker. This book cleared up a lot of my confusion over why I was finding low stakes poker games difficult, despite everyone telling me that my opponents should be “weak” and “easy”. Of course the acid test will be whether or not I can make this book pay for itself at the tables!

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

A surprisingly enjoyable read about the sub-prime mortgage crisis which rocked the financial world. The book gets a little technical at times, but everything you need to know is well explained.

Stonemouth by Iain Banks

I found Banks’ most recent over-priced Kindle edition a fun read, although not dissimilar to several of his previous novels. It passed the time nicely on a couple of long tube journeys.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Although this book was written for young adults, I still throughly enjoyed it from my current “wisdom advantage” of a couple of extra decades. It contains lots of neat ideas based on modern technology and things you can investigate for yourself, such as computer vision, RFID chips, paranoid Linux distributions, etc. Best of all, you can get it for free, as a gift from the author, at the link in this paragraph title.